Brothers Marc and Nic Marchini take to the field at family business
- by Terry Sokol | October 22, 2008
Between the two of them, brothers Marc and Nic Marchini have the family business covered.
Marc Marchini, 25, handles sales and cost-analysis for radicchio specialist J. Marchini Farms, while Nic Marchini, 23, serves as the Le Grand, CA-based company's production manager.
"He is the grower and I am the marketer," Marc Marchini said.
The pair will be in attendance at PMA's Fresh Summit in Orlando, FL, Oct. 24- 27, where in addition to taking in supplier presentations, they are hosting a cocktail reception for their customers.
The brothers took similar paths to their current places in life, with a few differences.
Marc Marchini is a 2006 graduate of California State University-Chico, with a degree in marketing and accounting.
Nic Marchini attended San Jose State University on a football scholarship and graduated in 2008 with a degree in business with a concentration in management and an emphasis on supply-chain management.
"Growing up as a kid, I kind of always knew what I wanted to do," said Nic Marchini. "I went to college with an open mind, but farming is my passion. The process of being connected to the land is just a lifestyle I learned from my grandpa and my dad, and hopefully I will pass it down to my kids."
Marc Marchini wasn't as sure as early about the family profession.
"Sure, it is something we grew up with, and Nic always wanted to do that," he said. "For me, I wanted to do something different. But as I went through college and kept returning to the farm, I grew to love the fact that this is a very tight community and I really want to be part of that lifestyle -- living in a rural town."
The Marchini family's roots in California's Central Valley reach back to the 1920s, when the brothers' great-grandfather, Florindo Marchini, emigrated from Italy to the region by way of Ellis Island and the San Francisco Bay area. Florindo Marchini's business was tomatoes, and he founded and partnered in the Giampaoli-Marchini Co. where son Joe Marchini, the boys' grandfather, joined him in 1960. Joe Marchini left Giampaoli-Marchini in 1987 to found Marchini Bros. Inc. with his brother, Richard. J. Marchini Farms evolved from that endeavor.
The brothers' father, Jeff Marchini, is the company's operations manager. "He pretty much does everything," Marc Marchini said. Grandfather Joe is not necessarily involved in day-to-day operations, the brothers said, but he offers a lot of oversight - and insights.
The brothers credited their early experiences working on the farm with shaping who they are today. They started working in the fields - driving tractors and tending bell peppers - when Marc was 10 and Nic was 8.
For Marc an important turning point was when, at age 15, he began working various farmers markets in the Bay area. He continued on that track well into his college years. Those were "long hours," he said. "I got used to getting up early, driving long distances and talking to people and being able to communicate with them where everything came from. We had all locally grown tomatoes, watermelon, bell peppers, fresh corn, figs. That's where I got a lot of my experience and my desire to educate customers."
Nic found his early experiences served him well as a football player for the San Jose State Spartans. Growing up, waking up at 5 a.m., he didn't necessarily feel that he was "missing Saturday morning cartoons," he said. "I thought that every other kid my age was working." In college, football practices at 6:30 a.m. "didn't bother me the way they did other people," he said. "The ethic helped with my success at school."
Nic played in the New Mexico Bowl in 2006 and as an offensive lineman, defensive lineman and tight end, was named his school's best offensive and defensive player. "Being an athlete, you were always under the microscope," he said, noting that his academics were constantly under scrutiny at San Jose State. "You have to be an example," he said.
"We had responsibility at a very young age," Marc agreed.
Coming from a high school with just 550 students, Nic described his college career as "a big eye opener. We played in some big venues" against teams that included Penn State and Illinois, he said.
Marc joked that he and his parents had more fun than Nic during the football years "because we got to go to all the games and tailgate."
Nic joined his brother for a vastly different experience when Marc was studying Spanish in South America as pupil in an ECELA (Escuela y Centro de Espa?ol en Latino Am?rica) language immersion program from January to June of 2007.
"I lived in Chile with a family in Santiago in the Providencia neighborhood" for the first five months, then spent a month in Buenos Aires, Argentina, sharing an apartment with other students, Marc said. "It was a really cool group from all over the world - Japan, Australia, Brazil, Canada, the United States - and all age groups" with many older students.
"This was a really special part of my life," he said. "The experiences that you gain from [immersing] yourself to learn another language and another culture just go on forever."
Nic visited Marc at the end of his stay in South America and the two drove around Argentina and Chile, even visiting radicchio fields that J. Marchini Farms sources from near Santiago.
Even with their background, the duo acknowledged that they still have a lot to learn.
"Farming is a process," Nic said. "You can't come out of school and know the majority of you industry - it's not practical."
One of the default factors of their youth is "we don't know very much," Marc said. "There's always going to be something, but being young, we don't know a lot more than other people don't know."
But that's the only disadvantage, he said. "There are so many good things about being young in this industry. We're the new generation. We want to continue this lifestyle for another three generations -- I want to be a grandfather with my grandsons and granddaughters growing on the same land.
"Agriculture isn't some ancient way of doing things," he continued. "It's always evolving, always changing."
Their youth gives them an advantage in adapting to those changes, Nic said, especially when it comes to new technology. "Technology is growing at a rapid rate and the ability to absorb that technology [helps] not only our company, but our industry," he said.
"We're both very lucky to have a great family to work with," Marc said, although Nic pointed out that family will be "brutally honest" and that is not always easy.
"Farming itself is an old process with new philosophies," Nic said. "To learn the process -- the seasons, the timing, the watering, the fertilizing -- takes time and practice." In fact, he likened farming to a doctor's or lawyer's practice, observing, "It's never the same thing twice. You can't learn it from a book."
That said, Marc noted that even at their stage in the farming tradition, they have to be future-minded. As someone who plans to some day take over management of the family business, "I am prioritizing what my goals are. Owners will tell you they wear many hats, so I am deciding which hats I am going to wear now and which hats I am going to wear later," he said.
In their spare time the brothers enjoy the outdoors. Marc is an avid skier and the pair take advantage of a family cabin in Kirkwood, CA, with access to the slopes in winter and to horse trails and mountain biking in the off-season. They also enjoy the beaches in Santa Cruz, CA.
Marc also relaxes by playing guitar and writing songs. "He's pretty good too," Nic said. The brothers played together in a band during high school.
Only time will tell if sisters Francesca, 20, and Marissa, 13, will join the family business as well. Meanwhile, the brothers make it sound pretty inviting.
"We're able to work in a location that's in our backyard where we are part of the community," Marc said. "We're selling something fresh and healthy for people, we're making use of the land, and we're providing opportunities for other people to work."
"We're doing and producing something we love," Nic said. "Not everyone has this opportunity."